A message to our students, from Dr. Alice L. Maher–
From a distance, our fingers and hands look pretty similar, but when you look closely you realize that every one of us has an entirely different set of fingerprints. Each is unique; we can even use them as a way to identify people. Similarly, each of you has a unique set of life experiences, feelings, beliefs, hopes, dreams, and ways of coping that give you a singular identity and imprint on the world.
You know how adults always tell you to stop bullying? They’re right, but I’ll tell you a secret: adults aren’t any better at stopping than you are. When we interact with people who are different, we often think about them in language that’s critical, dismissive, accusatory, and ridiculing. If you turn on the TV you’ll hear people from different political groups referring to people from the other side as selfish, stupid, wrong, and bad. Adults have a lot of trouble working together because we often tend to think that we’re right and the other side is wrong.
Emotional Imprint™ is a way to use feelings as a tool for learning.
The solution to this problem is going to come from you. Twenty years from now you’re going to be in charge of the world. You’re going to have to deal with your jobs and your families, you’re going to have to take care of the people in my generation who will be getting too old to care for ourselves, and you’re going to live in a world where there is prejudice, conflict, and war – and the emotional and financial toll of fighting them. You’re going to have a lot of problems to solve. If you can start to imagine what some of those problems are going to be, and imagine the perspectives of people who may think and feel differently from the way that you do, you’ll be better equipped to find creative solutions to those problems. Your teachers’ generation has made remarkable leaps in technology that you’re going to inherit. If you continue to bully each other in the way that my generation does, you might use that technology to kill each other.
I’m convinced that you have the capacity to change this. Our program is designed to give you some of the tools you’re going to need to develop those creative solutions.
What does an Emotional Imprint™ classroom look like?
In an Emotional Imprint™ classroom, we ask you to step into the shoes of others. For example, we might ask you and your classmates to design a future society in which you become the adults, each of you creating and inhabiting an imaginary “future self,” in a classroom that becomes a microcosm of adult American society. We’ll explain some things about how our system works, and we’ll invite you to experience some of the conflicts we have with each other and try to find new ways of thinking about those conflicts. We bet you’ll come up with some ideas that my generation hasn’t been able to, and if you do, we’ll document them – maybe with your help as writers, artists, and video producers — and see to it that they get to our political leaders.
By looking at some of the problems that adults deal with that magnify our differences, and exploring how your adult personas respond to these issues, you and your classmates can change the ways in which you interact with each other, and build upon those changes as you move into your real, “non-virtual,” adulthood. This is just one example of the way Emotional Imprint™ might work in your classroom. You won’t need to read about superheroes in comic books; you’ll be real ones.
Please email me and share your ideas. And if you’ve participated in an Emotional Imprint™ project, let me know what you think.